The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] 4-2 Monday in Ziglar v. Abbasi [SCOTUSblog materials] that Muslim men detained in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks cannot sue top US officials. The three consolidated cases center on the arrest and detention of Middle Eastern men illegally present in the US when they were arrested for immigration violations. The men claimed that former US attorney general John Ashcroft, former FBI director Robert Mueller and a former Immigration and Naturalization Services commissioner confined them despite allegedly knowing they had no ties to terrorism. In an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court noted that the men were mistreated:
If the facts alleged in the complaint are true, then what happened to respondents in the days following September 11 was tragic. Nothing in this opinion should be read to condone the treatment to which they contend they were subjected. The question before the Court, however, is not whether petitioners’ alleged conduct was proper, nor whether it gave decent respect to respondents’ dignity and well-being, nor whether it was in keeping with the idea of the rule of law that must inspire us even in times of crisis.
However, the court found that plaintiffs could not bring a Bivens [opinion] claim challenging the detention policy. The court remanded the claim against a jailer regarding detainee treatment to the lower court. The court also found that the officials were entitled to qualified immunity against claims under 42 USC § 1985(3) [text].
Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Elega Kagan and Neil Gorsuch took no part in the case. This is the third case where the court has ruled for Ashcroft [JURIST news archive] in suits against him and other top officials for conduct following the 9/11 attacks.